Strategy is perhaps the most abused word in Washington

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

Strategy is perhaps the most abused word in Washington, Christian Brose notes (in The Kill Chain):

Government strategies are more often laundry lists of hopes and dreams that help leaders avoid making choices. They seek to be inclusive of everyone’s priorities and give every kid a trophy, rather than picking winners and losers among priorities that are all competing for finite resources. They say everything — and thus, nothing.


Instead, we will need to relearn a lesson of history that we largely forgot during our three decades of uncontested dominance: that great powers are capable of limiting one another’s ambitions and rendering many of each other’s goals impractical or unachievable, regardless of how desirable those goals may be for one side or the other.

Great powers force each other to define their core interests, the things each is truly willing to fight over, and then make compromises and accommodations as necessary over the rest, lest competition descend into conflict.


This is already the reality with China. It is unlikely, for example, that a US president would send an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait in a significant crisis with China the way President Bill Clinton did in 1996. US carriers would probably not even operate within a thousand miles of the Chinese coast in the event of a conflict.


China may be capable of denying dominance to America, but America can do the same to China. And that should be our goal: preventing China from achieving a position of military dominance in Asia, which might be accompanied by a growing global assertiveness that could lead to even more detrimental consequences for the United States and our closest allies.


  1. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Brose is undoubtedly correct that “strategy” is a misused term in the West. Or perhaps the real strategy is to keep taxpayer funds flowing towards the important domestic political contributors — and external “strategic” aims are merely a cover for this self-licking ice cream cone?

    There is a sense in which our “strategists” are fighting the last war — imagining that future conflicts will necessarily be military. After all, China has worked itself into a situation where it now provides a large part of the essential manufactured products required by the West — everything from electronic equipment to medications to nuts & bolts. As has been said before, the US attacking China would be like a junkie attacking her drug dealer.

    China can win the war without firing a single bullet, simply by cutting off shipments to the US. Ever wonder why China is choosing this moment to shut down the critical global production center of Shanghai? Is it really because of “Covid”?

  2. Bomag says:

    I agree with Gavin. China is winning the economic war; what more is to be gained militarily?

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